How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It?

Last Updated on October 11, 2022 by Ernest Godia

A fresh coat of deck stain can instantly lift your home’s curb appeal and make your outdoor space more inviting. However, using this space before the surface dries is not recommended, as it can mess it up. 

So, how long should deck stain dry before walking on it? A correct answer to this question can go a long way in helping you get the best results on a newly stained deck. 

In this article, you’ll learn how long to let your stained deck dry before walking on it and understand the factors that affect the drying time of deck stains.

How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It?

For water-based stains, we recommend waiting 1-4 hours for the deck stain to dry before walking on it. For oil-based stains, you’ll need to wait 4-24 hours. However, in cold, humid weather, you may need to wait up to 72 hours for the deck stain to dry completely before walking on it.

Factors determining how long to wait before walking on a newly stained deck

Though different stains take different amounts of time to dry, certain factors affect their drying times equally. 

Before commencing your wood project, consider these factors to get a rough estimate of how long to wait before walking on your deck after staining:

  • Temperature 

Stains tend to dry faster when the temperatures are high and take longer to dry under cold temperatures. However, the temperatures must not be too high either. 

Extremely high temperatures make the stain dry too quickly. This accelerated drying process means the stain does not penetrate the wood pores sufficiently, leading to a patchy finish.

The recommended temperature range for staining your deck is between 50 and 90oF.

So, consider checking to ensure the ambient temperatures are within this range to facilitate better drying or use our recommended techniques to make the stain dry faster.

You can also check the temperatures recommended by the stain manufacturer on the container label and stick with that.

  •  Humidity

Humidity affects the evaporation rate and, in turn, the drying time of the stain. If you stain your deck on a highly humid day or environment, you’ll need to wait longer to walk on the deck after staining.

This is because high humidity means a higher moisture concentration around the wood, which slows down moisture evaporation from the stained surface. Consequently, the stain will take longer to dry. 

Under low humidity, there is a high moisture concentration difference between the deck and the surrounding air, facilitating evaporation and fast drying. For the best results, maintain a humidity of 40-70% when staining to make the deck stain dry faster.

  • Sunlight

Direct sunlight will make the deck stain dry quickly, reducing the time you’ll need to wait before walking on it. However, when the sun is too hot, the stain will dry too fast before adhering to the wood, causing an uneven finish and making your deck look patchy. 

Avoid staining when the sun is too hot for your deck stain to dry faster and evenly. Wait until there is moderate sunlight or target a warm, cloudy day to stain the deck, and you’ll love the outcome. 

  • The number of stain coats applied.

The more coats of stain you apply on your deck, the longer it will take to dry and the longer you’ll have to wait before walking on it. You may want to apply many coats of stain on your deck to achieve a darker shade or a deeper color. 

In that case, you should also be ready to wait longer for one coat to dry completely before applying the next. 

To achieve the best results, apply thin coats of stain or buy brands that require only a single coat to achieve the desired coverage.

  •  Type and age of the wood

Stain dries faster on some types of wood than on others. For instance, if your deck is made of porous wood like cedar and oak, the stain will be absorbed faster and will cure better than on a non-porous wood like Redwood. 

This rule is true for pressure-treated and non-pressure-treated wood.

The age of the deck wood will also determine how long to walk on it after staining. New wood deck tends to take longer to dry due to high moisture content. But if your deck consists of relatively old wood, you won’t wait as long for the stain to dry. 

Note that high moisture content and tight grain are two of the leading reasons why wood won’t take stain.

The best option is, therefore, to make your deck using porous wood and wait for at least six months before staining.

How long to wait for an oil-based deck stain to dry

If you stain your deck with an oil-based stain, you’ll wait longer for it to dry. Oil-based stains take longer to dry than water-based stains because of the linseed oil base in their binder. 

So, how long should deck stain dry before walking on it if you use an oil-based stain? The answer is between 4 and 24 hours on a warm day. However, if you stain on a cold or humid day, you may need to wait up to 72 hours for the stain to dry completely. 

Note that the longer you wait before walking on the deck, the better the outcome.

How long to wait for a water-based deck stain to dry?

Unlike oil-based stains, water-based products dry and cure faster. If you use a water-based stain on your deck, you’ll need to wait only 1-4 hours for it to dry completely. 

Similarly, the waiting time will be longer on a cold and humid day–you may need to wait up to 24 hours.

How long for BEHR deck stain to dry before walking on it?

BEHR deck stain will take 24-48 hours to dry, so you need to wait at least 24 hours to walk on it after following their recommended stain application procedure. Note that after 24 hours, you can only walk on the deck barefoot since bare feet exert minimal pressure.

However, since shoes exert extra pressure and may leave footprints, you’ll need to wait 48 hours before walking on the deck with shoes.

How long after staining a deck can a dog walk on it?

Dog claws can leave scratches or unwanted dents on your deck if the stain hasn’t dried completely. Therefore, watch over your little buddy to ensure they don’t walk over the deck for about 24 hours after staining.

How long does a deck need to dry after staining before putting furniture on it?

Putting furniture on your deck before it dries can damage the stain and leave undesired marks. Therefore after staining your deck, wait at least 24 hours before putting any furniture on it. 

Note that the stain may not have cured completely, and you can only place lightweight furniture like a stool or ottoman. For heavy furniture like a table, wait for a week after staining before putting them on the deck. 

After a week, you can be sure your stain is dry and won’t be easily scratched or damaged by any furniture.


Is 24 hours enough time for deck stains to dry?

Yes. 24 hours is enough for deck stains to dry, but only under favorable weather conditions. In warm, windy weather, your deck stain will be dry in 24 hours. But in cold, humid weather, it may take up to 72 hours for your deck to dry.

What happens if it rains after you stain your deck?

Unfortunately, if it rains after staining your deck, the wood pores will absorb some rainwater and take relatively long to dry. The stain may also peel off or look splotchy when it dries.

How many coats of stain does a deck need?

Two coats of stain are enough for staining a deck of any type of wood, whether porous or non-porous. While the first coat will be well absorbed into the wood pores, the second coat will fill up the wood structure and enhance the shade of the first coat. The second coat should be relatively thinner. 

How long should deck stain dry before walking on it?
Staining wooden deck with paint pad; an untreated patch of wood shown for contrast

How do you know when the deck stain is dry?

You can know when the deck stain is dry by touching it. If you use an oil-based stain, it will no longer feel tacky when dry. Oil-based stains also cease to smell when they dry. If you used a water-based stain, lightly sand a corner of the deck. If it forms a powder, you’ll know the stain is dry.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve wondered, “How long after staining my deck can I walk on it?” now you have all the answers you need.

If you want to enjoy the fresh look on your deck after staining, be patient enough to let it dry completely before walking on it or putting any pieces of furniture on it. Don’t even let your dog on a newly stained deck before it finishes drying. 

You want to avoid unwanted scratches, dents, or a splotchy look after your deck dries.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Let’s know what you think in the comments.

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